Restoring a Piece of Exeter's History
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The Clover HouseOctober 2015
By Jordan Venema
Photos: Jacki Potorke
Tricia and Terri Austin’s family moved to Exeter in 1965, a block from downtown and across the railroad tracks. Like other kids, the sisters probably developed a healthy curiosity about the large house across the street, which to them must have seemed ancient, maybe even mysterious. Whatever their imaginations built from the home, they couldn’t have guessed they would one day renovate the house, thereby restoring to Exeter an important piece of its heritage.
For more than 100 years, in different states of repair and for various purposes, the Clover House has been an Exeter fixture. Jonathan Grant Kirkland built the house in 1908, and according to Terri, his family name “has been associated with the railroads throughout the years.” Built along the railroad, the house was a sort of rest stop for conductors. After his first wife’s death, Kirkland named a member of the Pogue family, who Terri says “were pioneers before they came here to Exeter. So the Clover House is real Exeter history.”
After the Kirklands and Pogues lived out their years, the home came under different owners. For a time, “it was a home where children from the court system came and stayed; it was used for a ministry location after that,” says Tricia.
Last year, Tricia and her husband, Charlie Kirksey, bought the house from friend Wes Clover. Clover moved to Exeter in 1982, and his vision was “to bring the house back to its original glory,” says Tricia. He had hoped to restore the house and use it for Exeter events.
Clover passed away in May, a few months after the Kirkseys bought his home. He was, however, able to see the beginnings of the renovation. The Kirkseys and sister Terri partnered together to realize Clover’s dream, researching its history and meticulously renovating the home to its original condition.
Charlie spent the last year renovating the home. “Basically I took it apart and put it back together again,” he says. “We tried to use all the original material that we could… The house had been used in different ways for many years,” he adds, so a lot of work was needed: walls weren’t original, doors and windows had been covered up. “I actually went in and opened walls to retrieve doors and put them back into operation… We just tried to take it back to the era that the house was built in.”
Now, says Tricia, “the home has been restored so that you step into it, you step back into 1908, into the upper class.”
They achieved the time warp by decorating the home with Craftsman-style furniture. “We’ve been collecting antiques for a long time,” says Tricia.
The fully renovated home now doubles as an outdoor event venue with veranda patio that is equipped to host “pretty much anything,” says Charlie, including weddings for up to 250 people.
For wedding parties, the interior of the house will also be open for photos. “There’s a bridal room upstairs with a private balcony, and there’s a bridal bathroom, so the girls can get ready upstairs,” says Tricia. Men will also have their own area in the house, and Clover House will provide drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
Basically, say the Kirkseys, everything happens on site, from the ceremony to the reception, and they provide a catering menu exclusive to the Clover House.
But in an area where there’s no shortage of wedding venues, what makes Clover House unique? “Exeter is such a small town and history is prevalent in Exeter, and we still carry on a lot of that history through the families that have stayed here in the area,” explains Tricia.
“We’re bringing that history back to Exeter,” continues Tricia. The Kirkseys and Terri also hope to open Clover House to the school district so students can picnic in the backyard while learning about railroad safety. “We’re really trying to find other ways to incorporate the history of the house that will hopefully benefit Exeter in other ways.”
The Clover House• 224 North E Street • Exeter